The ARD program is a beneficial program for first time offenders which allows the case to be dropped and expunged after classes, community service, payment of fines and a period or arrest free behavior.
ARD in Bucks County
If you are charged for a non violent Misdemeanor, and if this is your first offense, you may be eligible for the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, (ARD). If ARD is approved by the District Attorney you do not have to plead guilty, are not convicted of a crime, and the charges are eventually dismissed and expunged automatically. Bucks County generally requires 10 hours of community service, payment of fines and successful completion of a probationary period. Once the charges are dismissed, a Motion for Expungement is automatically filed resulting in all of the charges being officially removed from your record, including your "rap sheet". This program is for first time offenders only and the DA will review your entire past history to determine if you are eligible. Individuals who have been convicted in the past of any crime are ineligible. Additionally, the chances for ARD are decreased if the individual has previously been approved for ARD in the past.
Offenses for which ARD is given
ARD is typically given for Driving Under the Influence cases where no one else was injured as a result. There could be a short license suspension if ARD is given for DUI. If your blood level is between .10% and .159% there is a 30 days license suspension. If the level is above .16% there is a 60 day suspension, and there is no suspension for blood levels below .10%. In addition, you will be required to undergo a CRN Evaluation after the Preliminary Hearing where classes and/or treatment may be recommended.
ARD is also given for crimes such as Retail Theft (shoplifting) and other Theft offenses, minor drug possession cases, vandalism, as well as other minor misdemeanor offenses. It is rarely given for more serious felony cases and crimes involving violence. The County District Attorney makes the decision as to which people are placed into the ARD program, and it is solely up to the DA's discretion. The Judge has nothing to do with the ARD decision making process. As a former Bucks County Senior Deputy District Attorney, I personally approved over 1,000 people for ARD, and as a defense attorney, I have assisted over 1,000 clients gain admission into this beneficial program. Since admission into the ARD program is determined solely by the District Attorney's Office, your attorney's relationship with the District Attorney is extremely important.
Application for ARD is typically made at the Preliminary Hearing. The Preliminary Hearing is the first step in the process in which you are able to see the evidence against you. It is not a guilt or innocence hearing - the District Justice only determines if the Commonwealth has enough evidence against you. At this Hearing, you will be Court ordered to attend a self reporting alcohol evaluation called a CRN evaluation in which you fill out paperwork and answer questions about your alcohol use. Based on this evaluation and also your Blood Alcohol level, you will be required to attend Alcohol Highway Safety Classes (typically 16 or 32 hours) and if deemed necessary, you may have to attend alcohol counseling. Most counties also require a period of community service and fines are imposed totaling approximately $1,400 or more, on average.
How to shorten the length of ARD
ARD probation in Bucks County typically lasts for one year before the charges are dropped and expunged. However, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office offers a way to reduce the probationary term to 6 months, which means the charges are off your record in half the time. In order to reduce the probation, all conditions such as classes, community service and payment of all fines and restitution must be completed before the final court date. Once proof is shown to the District Attorney, then the length of time you are on ARD probation is reduced.
ARD was denied by the DA. Now what?
If ARD is denied, then you can ask that the DA reconsider the decision to deny you ARD. In this scenario, your attorney's relationship with the DA is of the utmost importance. Typically, I ask clients to gather character letters from friends and family, proof of mental health treatment and/or drug treatment and any other evidence to convince the DA to change his mind.
Most importantly, I always ask the police officer to speak with the DA as the officer's opinion can carry great weight in the decision making process. When I was a District Attorney in Bucks, if an officer took the time to call me and explain his wishes, I almost always deferred to the officer's opinion in making a decision to place someone into the ARD program.
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